Monday 31 October 2016

Do you have a realistic love for the church?

Christians are called to love the church. In a time when many organisations compete for our time and attention, this notion needs comment. While we do not disparage para-church organisations, such groups must not detract from the Lord's primary purpose in redemption. This is the love that the Lord Jesus Christ has for the church and in return any true disciple of His, must the love the church. That is if they truly love the Lord Jesus Christ, the one who is revealed in the Bible.

Ephesians 5:24-27 "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish".

John 13:34-35 "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another".

One cannot love other Christians with a distant involvement in the life of other Christians. Love is a crucial part of New Testament Christianity, but we must ensure that our understanding of love is not based on our own flawed views of what love is. Commonly, when a couple embark on a path to marriage, there can be unrealistic expectations of marriage. Some ideas a couple may have may need tempering with genuine expectation and realism. Likewise we need realistic expectations of life as a church member in a local congregation.

Why is this? The Book of Revelation portrays seven New Testament churches with different flaws and imperfections. In three churches, the situation was so bad that, if the church members did not repent, then the Lord Jesus Christ was going to close down the church (These are the churches at Ephesus, Sardis and Laodicea). We need to realise that there is some aspect of these seven churches in most local churches, but we must also see our own need of grace and our own spiritual needs as well. Listen to the counsel of the Lord Jesus Christ:

Matthew 7:3-5 "Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye".

These verses do not mean that we should lack spiritual discernment, but that we should be concerned about our own spiritual condition and be realistic about it. To be realistic about ourselves, is then a pathway for us to love the church as we should. Love includes consistency, commitment and an 'other preferring" nature. Church is not simply about me and my gifts. It is about worshipping the living God on his appointed day a day which is the Christian Sabbath.

Read the seven churches in Revelation from Chapters 2-3 in the Bible. And then get planted and rooted in a church, one that bears the marks of a true church, so that your Christianity can be worked out in a loving context. I have preached through the seven churches in Revelation recently and I have really enjoyed it. If you want to listen to these sermons, here is the website:

Friday 28 October 2016

William Tyndale's Definition of the Gospel

William Tyndale writes in his essay called "A Pathway into the Holy Scripture", this powerful definition of the Gospel. (This is found in Volume 1 of the Works of William Tyndale, published by the Banner of Truth, p 8).

“Evangelion (that we call the gospel) is a Greek word; and signifies good, very, glad and joyful tidings, that makes a man heart glad, and makes him sing, dance and leap for joy; as when David killed Goliath the giant, came glad tidings unto the Jews, that their fearful and cruel enemy was slain, and they delivered out of all danger: for gladness whereof, they sung, danced and were joyful. In like manner is the Evangelion of God (which we call Gospel, and the New Testament) joyful tidings … ".

This is the "balm of Gilead" that is spoken of in Jeremiah 8:22. The Lord Jesus Christ is the great physician and we need this message of good news to be preached every Lord's Day to a lost and dying world.

Monday 17 October 2016

Mentoring and "Sola Scriptura"

This mini blog series on mentoring is an important one I believe. This is the third post on this subject in recent weeks. Perhaps the most important aspect that I am trying to elucidate is an individual's responsibility to seek out godly mentors. When you read the gospels you see people coming to the Lord Jesus to ask questions. Usually, the asking questions is a sign that good things are happening spiritually, except of course the Pharisees who were always asking questions to be divisive. Let's avoid the latter. An individual seeking out godly Christian mentors, is often a mark of humility and a recognition that you need help. This attitude is the opposite of pride, an approach which thinks it knows most of the answers and therefore that person has no interest in seeking other opinions. Which attitude best describes you?

"Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment, Proverbs 18:1".

However, my main point here is an essential point, one that all Christians, both mentor and mentee (a person trained advised or counselled by a mentor) are to be wholly submitted to the authority of Scripture. What does this mean in practice? One of the watchwords of the Reformation was that of "Sola Scriptura". This means that the written Scriptures are our baseline for authority and the church is to submit to God's wisdom revealed in the written Scriptures. If this does not happen in the church and in a mentoring relationship, then things will go sour, they will become unbiblical and at worst, the relationship could break down into carnal manipulation.

Sola Scriptura means:

I. The written Scriptures are our source of wisdom, faith and direction. The question has to be asked continually: "What does the Scripture say? (Romans 4:3), and not what does my mentor say?

II. The written Scriptures are to be accepted as final and sole authority. This closes the door to revelations outside of Scripture, such as personal prophecies, extra-biblical words and so forth. It is sad, when in a mentoring relationship, when it spirals downwards so that extra-biblical words begin to be used to manipulate people in an unbiblical direction, or worse still in the direction a mentor thinks is right. Perhaps another blog post should be written on: "mentoring and the danger of manipulation".

III. We want to avoid the "Ah but ..." syndrome when we come to Scripture. What is this? Well some people who find aspects of Scripture which they do not like or they struggle to submit to, sometimes say "Ah but ... that part of Scripture is cultural or it does not mean x, y and z". If this is done to rightly understand Scripture, then it is acceptable, but if "Ah but ... " is said to escape submitting to the Lord, then there is a real and dangerous spiritual problem. Our sinful nature does not easily submit to authority and that includes the full authority of Scripture.

Much, much more needs to be said on Sola Scriptura, but I wanted to raise this doctrine in the context of mentoring. Let me stress that mentoring relationships are never to be a substitute for sitting under preaching in the church, nor for searching out counsel from the church's elders. Here is a danger also. None-the-less let us seek out godly mentors who are wholeheartedly committed to the authority, finality and sufficiency of Scripture.

"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work". 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Recommended reading: "The Scripture Cannot be Broken: Twentieth Century Writings on the Doctrine of Inerrancy", edited by John MacArthur, published by Crossway.

Saturday 15 October 2016

James Montgomery and his life in Sheffield: 1771-1854

For those from Sheffield, they will be familiar with a place called the Montgomery Hall. However, it is surprising how few Christians in Sheffield, never mind further a field have little idea of the godly Christian influence of this man.

Perhaps if I mention two hymns by him then you will recognise them.

Angels from the realms of Glory
Holy, Holy, holy Lord, God of hosts, when heaven and earth ...

James Montgomery was born in 1771 and he died in 1854. He was from Scotland but the son of missionary parents, he spend most of his life in Sheffield. He was the editor of a newspaper, a kind of Wilberforce of Northern England in his protest against slavery, a supporter of much work of Christian benevolence and a principled Christian man. There is a statue of this man by the side of Sheffield Cathedral today.

Day One Publications have published a fine book by Paul S. Taylor called "James Montgomery: A Man for all People". It is an excellent book!

What can we learn from his life? He advocated for the anti-slavery movement, because true gospel knowledge will always produce a reaction to the evils of present-day society. We must never take the values of a society as absolutes for morality. History teaches us that this is foolish and collective views (sometimes called a consensus) do not necessarily direct towards what is right. In fact due to the sinfulness of men, the opposite may be the case. It is the Bible which provides the only standard for right and wrong for all of humanity, yes all of humanity.

The Ten Commandments are clear for all people: "You shall not murder and you shall not steal". 19th Century slavery was a form of man-stealing, never mind a breach of human rights. However today, we face the silent wickedness of providing abortion as a means of contraception and women are rarely given an informed choice of the truth that she is carrying a human being, a baby, and not a mass of impersonal human cells. It is time for men and women to begin to sensitively and boldly support a modern day cause of Pro-Life. There was a time in this nation when the life of a baby was upheld. Today, in the UK and in many countries, perhaps the most dangerous place to be is in the mother's womb. I believe that men such as James Montgomery, were they alive today, that they would passionately speak out on this issue. It is up to Christians today to do what is right, to speak out and to stand up for what is right even if it is not popular.

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Matthew 5:13-14.

"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path" Psalm 119:105.

Thursday 13 October 2016

Is it True? Evidence for the Bible by DayOne

Someone just gave me a copy of this splendid booklet which only costs a pound. It is a survey of the archaeological confirmation of many peoples, places, names and kings. Apparently it is being sold by the British Museum, but I recommend it for every Christian and it could be used in family worship as well.

I loved the chapter describing the historical records of crucifixion in Roman times and therefore the significant stigma that there would have been to have preached that the Christ was crucified. You could only be assured of this message by the work of the Holy Spirit and the same is true today.

It is very well presented book and an up-lifting read for any committed Christian. I encourage you to read it! It could also be used as an evangelistic booklet as well.

Psalm 12:6 "The words of the LORD are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times".

Ps The authors are Clive Anderson and Brian Edwards

Wednesday 12 October 2016

J. C. Ryle "Prepared to Stand Alone" by Iain Murray

We had Rev Murray preach for us in Sheffield Evangelical Presbyterian Church last Lord's Day. What a blessing it was and do check out the website to listen to the sermons (

However, a friend of mine told me today that he has heard that the latest book by Iain Murray on J. C. Ryle is apparently outstanding. I commend this book, though I have not read it yet and also check out other books authored by Murray on the Banner of Truth website.

Two books to note written by him are "Evangelicals Divided" and " The Forgotten Spurgeon".

Happy reading!

Tuesday 11 October 2016

Mentoring should take place in three directions: which directions are they?

"Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.
To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is!
The path of life leads upward for the prudent, that he may turn away from Sheol beneath" Proverbs 15:22-24.

We need good and godly counsel if we are to succeed in life. However, we must determine what success is in the sight of the Lord. In the sight of the Lord success includes that we must seek first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33), we must seek to support the Lord's church and be in good standing with her (Ephesians 5:; we must pursue living a life of holiness, one that is submitted to the written Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

I hope that the previous blog post on mentoring has got people thinking. Thinking to be actively praying for and seeking out good mentors, while avoiding the influence in one's life of people who should not or are not able to mentor people. Not all mentoring is helpful, in fact false teachers are always seeking to mentor people, but in wrong directions. We must seek out and pray for discernment. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 "but test everything; hold fast what is good". 1 John 4:1 "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world".

This blog post is intended to emphasise mentorship in three directions.

1. To be mentored by those who are more mature than us, more experienced Christians than us.

2. To develop peer level mentoring and mutual encouragement with friends. These are relationships where you are exhorting one another to remain on the "narrow path" in following after the Lord Jesus Christ.

3. To seek to encourage others who are less mature than you or younger in the faith than yourself.

Mentoring is never to be a way of controlling people or some unhealthy co-dependency relationship. We must beware of this because the flesh and Satan soon want to spoil things. We must always note that mentoring among Christians is never to substitute the counsel of godly elders, nor is counsel to be spiritually divisive for the church; these things happen!

Having said that, I hope that I have widened the scope of mentoring so that we can consider these three directions for mentoring. Ask yourself, how am I doing in these three directions of mentoring? I would suggest that if you are not planted in a church, then do not seek to be mentoring anyone until you get yourself sorted out. However, pray for mentors in the first and second category. Godly friends are a precious gift on our pilgrimage.

"Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few" Matthew 7:13-14.

A good book is called "Friends of Calvin" by Michael A. van den Berg published by Eerdmans.

Monday 3 October 2016

Who mentors you and whom do you seek out to mentor you?

Paul the apostle spoke in a very insightful way, when he wrote in 1 Corinthians 4:14-17 the following:

"I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me. That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church".

Imagine this! Paul says to the Corinthian Christians that though they have "countless guides" ... "you do not have many fathers". He may have been referring to the many travelling sophist teachers who were travelling around or he may have referred to some of the early New Testament preachers when he thinks of "countless guides". Though his statement is hyperbole, the point is taken. The need is always there for spiritual fathers and I dare say also for spiritual mothers as well.

However, in this blog post, I would like to lay the stress upon us as individuals; it is that we need to take responsibility to seek out spiritual mentors, those who can help us in our pilgrimage. Whatever season in life you are in, you need people with greater maturity, spiritual experience and wisdom than you possess, in order to help you as a Christian. Sometimes we are perhaps too passive to pray for the Lord to give us spiritual mentors. We may also be too passive to seek out spiritual mentors to ask the questions such as what do you think?; Could you advise me?; and what blind spots do I have on a particular matter? These kinds of questions demonstrate humility and teachability on the part of an individual who asks them.

So back to our initial question. Who mentors you? Whom do you seek out to mentor you? So, how do you answer these two initial questions? My aim in this blog post is chiefly pastoral. We of course do not want to seek people out, who will just tell us what we want to hear or those who will give us wrong advice. We want to seek out Christians who are in good standing with a church, and those who have a track record also of godly wisdom. I hope that this blog post can help many people, because we hopefully can seek out more than one person to mentor us. Of course potential mentors should never be a substitute for the counsel of the Lord's ministers and elders, but we need a variety of mentors to help us in the marathon race of Christian living.

Here are three verses to encourage and help us in the endeavour of praying, and for seeking out godly mentors.

Hebrews 12:1-2: "Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith".

Proverbs 11:14 "Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety".

Proverbs 24:6-7 "For by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory. Wisdom is too high for a fool; in the gate he does not open his mouth.

Saturday 1 October 2016

The Grand Design: Male and Female He Made Them

This book co-authored by Owen Strachan and Gavin Peacock was warmly commended to me recently by Rev Dr Bill Schweitzer. Bill is the minister of Gateshead Presbyterian Church and if you live near there, I recommend that you go and worship with them (

However, my main point is that Western society and British values basically promote confusion and blurring regarding genders, that is male and female. While a world without the spiritual compass of the Bible maybe confused, the church MUST never be. We must not allow the world to shape the thinking of the church: besides on all matters the world's opinions constantly change with fresh winds of contemporary ideas.

Psalm 11:3-5 "If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD’s throne is in heaven; his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man. The LORD tests the righteous".

The foundation from the Bible regarding gender differences and gender role differences in the church and family must not be confused. Hopefully, this book can help some, including those wanting to build a marriage based on Holy Scripture.

Happy reading!